Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Monday, March 05, 2007

  The Global Fake War on Terrorism (GFWOT)

Some inconvenient news was just released in Britain: Fewer than 4% of "terrorism" arrests in the UK have led to convictions. Americans shouldn't be surprised. The Bush administration's domestic 'War on Terror' has been a sorry disgrace from the beginning. We could laugh about the Keystone Cops element, were it not for the fact that so many thousands of lives of fellow Americans have been shattered.

After Sept. 11, 2001 the government ordered sweeping arrests of Muslims in the US and held hundreds or thousands indefinitely in undisclosed locations (all was done in secrecy and without adequate oversight). The charge of terrorism was bandied back and forth shamelessly, like an ingenue tossing her hair. The term quickly lost any meaning. The almost inevitable result of this reign of terror by the Justice Department has been that few serious criminals have been tried and convicted.

Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) have been following the issue for years. In Dec. 2003 they issued their first assessment of the government's record on terrorism-related cases, Criminal Terrorism Enforcement Since the 9/11/01 Attacks. It portrayed a scandalous, systematic failure by the federal government to identify and prosecute actual terrorists. Although federal investigators recommended that more than 6,400 people be charged with "terrorism" related offenses, fewer than nine hundred were convicted of anything.

And by 'anything', I mean anything. The average length of sentence for those few actually convicted of "terrorist" activities in the two years after the Sept. 11 attacks (thus I'm excluding the huge majority who were never prosecuted, or who were acquitted) was only 28 days in jail. All of this is in contrast to the record for terrorism prosecutions before Sept. 11 2001, when the average penalty imposed was 41 months in jail.

When the 2003 study was released, federal officials made all sorts of excuses for their abysmal record.

Justice Department and FBI officials said the study is rooted in past conceptions of crime and punishment and does not reflect the reality that would-be terrorists seek to blend into society until they are ready to strike.

Lack of lengthy prison terms in many cases can be explained by the effort by prosecutors to stop would-be terrorists long before they are ready to attack, often charging them with lesser offenses, such as identity theft, document fraud and immigration violations.

Prosecutors feel it is better to get suspects off the streets and press them for information than wait for events that could produce harsher penalties. They also said the study makes no mention of the value of intelligence collection and the need to reward cooperation with lesser sentences.

"The whole point is to disrupt terrorism at an early stage instead of letting the conspiracy fully hatch," said Viet Dinh, a former top Justice Department official under Attorney General John Ashcroft who now teaches law at Georgetown University. "We cannot take the risk of the conspiracy taking place. What you get is shorter sentences but greater prevention."

In other words, for every would-be "shoe bomber" such as Richard Reid, who is serving a life sentence for trying to light an explosive on a Paris-to-Miami flight last year, there are many more suspects such as the group of Yemeni-Americans from Lackawanna, N.Y., who were convicted of supporting terrorism by briefly attending al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan.

There's much more information in this June 2005 report from Cox by Larry Keller, Convictions don't match arrests in terrorism cases:

White House spokesman Scott McClellan didn't dispute TRAC's data when it was released, but like Coffey, he said the numbers don't tell the whole story. He said a number of people arrested copped pleas in exchange for their cooperation in government terrorist investigations and intelligence gathering.

TRAC Co-director David Burnham doesn't think the government's strategy is working. "Is it effective . . . to have the FBI flailing around, picking up everyone they see, and having most of them walk? I don't think it's effective, but it's understandable."

The government has padded its terrorist prosecution statistics, some say. A Washington Post analysis earlier this month found only one-fifth as many people had been convicted of crimes related to terrorism or national security as was claimed by President Bush a few days earlier. The discrepancy may be due to what sorts of crimes are categorized as terrorism or national security-related.

For example, when five Ku Klux Klan members were sentenced to prison in Louisiana in 2003 for burning a cross in the front yard of three black men, their case was classified by the local U.S. attorney as a domestic terrorism matter, according to TRAC.

Similarly, when dozens of mostly Hispanic workers at the airport in Charlotte, N.C. pleaded guilty to immigration law violations such as the misuse of visas, they were lumped in the "domestic terrorism" category, according to TRAC.

In fact the stories of ridiculously aggressive prosecutions in the name of "terrorism" have become legion. From Alexandra Marks last year in the Christian Science Monitor:

With great fanfare, the federal government last March announced indictments against 19 people for "racketeering to support a terrorist organization." The allegation: They trafficked in contraband cigarettes and other items and sent some of the profits to Hizbullah in Lebanon, which the US calls a terrorist organization.

In the announcement, a US attorney said the terror fight is his office's No. 1 priority. But lawyers for some of those charged claim their clients had nothing to do with terror. At best, they say, their clients may have been involved in "nickel-and-dime" criminal activity...

An independent review by the Monitor of dozens of cases categorized by the government as terrorism or terrorism-related supported the findings in the TRAC report. The Monitor review - which covered cases characterized by the Justice Department as successful terror prosecutions, as well as those included in the TRAC data - found many cases had tenuous connections to terrorism and resulted in little, if any, jail time.

For instance, the case of a Kentucky businessman who pleaded guilty to lying about selling forklift parts to an Iranian truck manufacturer was categorized as a successful prosecution related to "international terrorism." The businessman was sentenced to 50 hours of community service and a year of probation.

Along the way, there appear to have been some egregious miscarriages of justice. For example, the "draconian" sentences imposed upon the so-called paint-ball terrorists, and upon Ahmed Abu Ali for a highly improbable confession extracted under torture in Egypt. These are examples of the few lengthier sentences that federal prosecutors have managed to get. The shorter sentences, accordingly, often are for the most amazingly trivial stuff.

The Syracuse study was updated in September 2006: Criminal Terrorism Enforcement in the United States During the Five Years Since the 9/11/01 Attacks. The researchers found no significant improvements in the federal government's record on "terrorism" cases. Indeed, the embarrassing trends identified in 2003 had simply solidified in the meantime. There had been a huge decline in prosecutions after 2002. At the same time, prosecutors had started to refuse to pursue cases at an increasing rate. Only 27% of the "terrorism" cases that were referred to prosecutors ended up in convictions.

And the sentences for that 27% have been pretty light on average. The median sentence was now only 20 days in jail. Only 5% of those convicted received sentences of more than five years. More than half of those convicted received no prison time. The reason for this state of affairs becomes clear when you examine the actual charges. Here is a table with the leading charges brought in successful prosecutions for "international terrorism" cases. You'll notice that very few of these charges seem to have much to do with actual terrorism. Instead, the lead charges in successful prosecutions have mostly to do with allegations of fraud, particularly for making false statements. In other words, these are penny-ante prosecutions of people swept up in the FBI's terrorism-mania; they had to be prosecuted with something, if at all possible, so the false-statement catch-all was used.

When that second TRAC report appeared, the Bush administration denigrated it as well.

The Justice Department immediately took issue with the study’s methodology and its conclusions.

The study “ignores the reality of how the war on terrorism is prosecuted in federal courts across the country and the value of early disruption of potential terrorist acts by proactive prosecution,” said Bryan Sierra, a Justice Department spokesman.

“The report presents misleading analysis of Department of Justice statistics to suggest the threat of terrorism may be inaccurate or exaggerated,” Mr. Sierra added. “The Department of Justice disagrees with this suggestion completely.”

Department officials declined to discuss any details of what they considered the flawed methodology.

Because there's no point in backing-up your claim to be winning the War on Terror with facts and such not. Doing so would mean the terrorists win.

From Unbossed

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  • Here is a graph that nicely depicts George W. Bush's record of success in the domestic War on Terror. TRAC.

    By Blogger : smintheus ::, at 11:15 PM  

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